Mixed Results For Previous First-Round Hogs
FAYETTEVILLE -- One player is a stud, another is a bust and the jury is still out on the final guy. During Houston Nutt's nine seasons as Arkansas' coach, three of his former players have been taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Their productivity at the next level has varied, though. The Philadelphia Eagles selected offensive guard Shawn Andrews with the 16th pick in the 2004 draft, and cornerback Ahmad Carroll was chosen nine spots later by the Green Bay Packers. The following year, the Jacksonville Jaguars took a gamble with the No. 21 pick and drafted former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, whose impressive workouts showed he had the potential to be a star wide receiver. All three players were a part of Arkansas' stellar 2001 recruiting class. But as this weekend's NFL Draft approaches, Andrews has been the only one to have immediate success at the next level. "Shawn Andrews has come into the league and become a Pro Bowl player -- a Pro Bowl guard," said Chris Mortensen, ESPN's NFL expert whose son was a former quarterback at Arkansas and still frequently visits UA football practices. The Razorbacks have a chance Saturday to double the number of first-round picks they've had during Nutt's tenure. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson and cornerback Chris Houston have been projected as mid- to late-first-round picks, and offensive tackle Tony Ugoh could also hear his name called before the second round. But as Andrews, Carroll and Jones have shown, NFL teams aren't always sure what they're going to get with a high pick. "Nobody can say (Jones is) a bust yet," Mortensen said Tuesday. "However, I will say this, both around the league and in with the Jaguars, they want Matt to take the next step up. They want him to stay healthy." Of the three former Razorbacks taken in the first round since 2004, Carroll has proven to be the only "bust" so far. Since entering the NFL, Andrews has established himself as one of the league's top offensive guards, and the Eagles have rewarded him with a seven-year contract extension. Jones, meanwhile, is still a work in progress. The Fort Smith native has shown flashes of his undeniable athleticism during his first two seasons in the NFL, but minor leg injuries and the Jaguars' uncertainty at quarterback have affected his productivity. This upcoming season is considered to be a make-or-break year for Jones, Mortensen said. But Carroll has never lived up to his first-round selection. Though he showed enough potential to leave Arkansas after his junior year, Carroll struggled during his two-plus seasons with the Packers. He couldn't avoid penalties, had a hard time keeping up with wide receivers and was cut Oct. 3 -- a day after his dismal showing against the Eagles on Monday Night Football. "You can't have any bad memories because they (the Packers) were the first team to actually give me a job," Carroll told The Morning News late last year. "... Basically, it's the nature of the game. You got to put it past you and move ahead. I enjoyed my time there." But Carroll's brief stint in Green Bay proved what some critics had thought about the flashy cornerback heading into the 2004 draft. "(The) people who criticized Batman coming into the league, which is that this is a guy who grabbed and held and talked too much for as much ability as he had, pretty much that played out true," Mortensen said. "In other words, he came into the league and guess what? He got penalized more than any player in the league, basically, and that dug him a hole. And all of sudden, when you're not allowed to grab and hold, what kind of player are you? "... He basically didn't make the transition to how to play without grabbing and holding." Coincidentally, after he was released by the Packers, Carroll got picked up by the Jaguars, reuniting him with Jones. While preparing for this weekend's draft, Houston has tried to show NFL scouts that he's not like Carroll. Some media outlets have tried to compare the two former Arkansas cornerbacks, though Houston said Monday that he hasn't heard that from the NFL teams he's spoken with. "Not really, because they see from film that we're two different kind of players," Houston said of the comparisons to Carroll. "So nobody really brought that up too much." Still, it will be a few more years before anyone knows for sure what to think of Houston, Anderson and Ugoh as pros.
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